Helping other people
Sometimes it's OK to forgo financial gains if you can use your money to help make the world a better place. Energy in Common is Kiva with a green twist — all the projects they offer up for investment are for renewable energy systems in the developing world. Last year I invested $25 in Edna Mganga, a restaurateur in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, who used my capital and the capital of other micro-investors to buy a solar panel system for her restaurant. Her $1,085 loan will be paid back in 12 months and will fund a solar system big enough to prevent 1 metric ton of CO2 from being produced each year.
What the deal lacks in interest (like Kiva, loans made via Energy in Common are paid back at 0 percent interest) it more than makes up for in feel-good. It's a great tool to help people like Edna Mganga reduce their energy bills while knocking out a small portion of the dirty electricity needed to fully power the grid in Dar es Salaam.
You can peruse the list of loans looking for investors at Energy in Common here. Making a loan is quick and easy and a good place for your tax return.